Alessandro Valente, Co-Founder at Super Afiliados, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
With a network of over 100 active websites, over 850 domains in LatAm, millions of followers on social media, and a solid database of players, Super Afiliados are experiencing their second take-off - follow their story below.
How did your affiliate marketing business take off? And, is iGaming your only vertical?
It’s hard to say that “take-off” has already happened in a region that had not been explored to its full potential. In this past decade, our business has experienced a high level of profit but also some really bad crisis when affiliation was almost reduced to none. Only a few businesses survived the “affiliation crash” in Brazil back in 2015.
The iGaming industry is our primary vertical, representing 90% of what Super Afiliados does. With the few exceptions of a few projects that expand into loan, insurance, and travel comparison, the majority of our projects are dedicated to the iGaming.
We’re experiencing our second take-off, which is already showing really good results in a very short time. Our network has over 100 active websites promoting sports betting and gambling in general. Having the largest portfolio of assets in LatAm with over 850 domains, millions of followers on social media, and a solid database of players.
How did you first get into the affiliate space? And, were you always focused on the Gaming space?
Back in 2007, I was already living in London and after working on a project for an affiliate business which operated in the British market, I decided to test the concept in Brazil. There was a clear trend of how things were progressing in Europe and I thought that this could also be somehow replicated in Brazil and eventually other countries in Latin America. As soon as I noticed that Brazil was untapped, I joined forces with my former business partners, and we developed the business from scratch to reach over 7 figures revenue in a few years. There was eventually a downturn in the local market and that affected us drastically; but in 2019, with the help of an important investor and new business partners, we decided to relaunch the business and this time under the Super Afiliados brand.
Since conception we only worked in the iGaming business, but we tried a few other industries, and nothing was too exciting, and we couldn’t get passionate about it as much as for iGaming. We have seen ups and downs in the region, but we strongly believe that this time it’s going to be more stable because of the level of operators arriving in the region.
How is your company structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
Super Afiliados is a lean operation with what I believe to be the best way to operate under any circumstances. We truly believe in home-office and have been doing that for many years, hiring professionals from all over the world and not necessarily relocating them or forcing anyone into a cubicle from 9 to 5 concept. We need to give them all the support to allow them to work from an office nearby their home, being a co-work or a small rented facility. We have no plans to change that in the near future but since relaunching Super Afiliados we decided that in key locations we will always have a co-work ready for our contractors and ourselves.
Officially we are a Maltese marketing agency, with our HQ being prepared in Malta. However, we already have an office in São Paulo, where part of the operational team works from time to time. Then in London where I normally work with a few colleagues, and in Stockholm, we have our partners based.
What can operators do to increase support with affiliates?
Offer us more money!? Not really. It’s not all about that but it helps for sure the operation to have the support of the operators, especially for those who are starting. I remember when I first started and a couple of guys who used to run a local website in Brazil gave me financial support to get some PPC campaigns live and invest on a better website. A little bit of a push I would suggest.
The operators are likely to have a better margin and deeper pockets than the vast majority of affiliates who are starting their careers in the industry. If you can spare some money as an operator who can normally look into an ROI longer than an amateur affiliate starting its career from a bedroom, just go and do it. It will pay off if the affiliate succeeds.
On top of that, I would say that adapting the website to a serious level localization, with a local team or at least natives, to look after the operation, produce more relevant bonus that will satisfy the audience and compare less the affiliates or the players in countries such as Brazil with European ones.
How can affiliates be more unique in their approach?
They constantly need to think outside the box. It’s really hard to keep up with all the latest technologies and updates that impact our business frequently, from simple Google algorithm updates to competition improving their strategy, and you have to try to be always a step ahead or at least have a good reaction speed.
Finding niches to explore is always a great alternative and within those niches, if we have the possibility to apply different techniques, instead of just trying to hit the audience with the same old approach.
What makes your traffic proposition/traffic sites unique?
Countries in Latin America are still far behind some European countries and North Americans and that creates a very important level of demand , a gap that we noticed a few years ago, and our group has since then offered other non-affiliate related services. We remain focused on all performance-related marketing activities and rarely accepted any branding campaigns, but we have all contacts in case our client really needs them and we have already set and managed sponsorship of football tournaments and others. However, our focus is always on performance-related campaigns.
As for our own websites and the traffic we generate from them, this is mainly related to organic search and we’re constantly investing in SEO and other elements to make the best out of what we have. Currently, Super Afiliados owns over 850 domain names for Latam, most of them are meant to be used in Brazil, and we have over 100 active websites.
In other words, Super Afiliados has a variety of services but above all, we’re an affiliate company and we will always try to work with the operators in this way.
Are you contemplating bringing in investors to scale or grow your business? Or, with such a big M&A market, have you ever contemplated selling the business?
We have considered this option not long ago, but we decided to leave it for when the region is better developed, and our business has reached a significant level.
I would never forget meeting one of the top veterans in the industry for dinner and being offered a deal of a lifetime, coming from someone who I admire so much as a successful case of an affiliate who started from scratch and reached the top of the pyramid.
Right now, we joined forces between a small group of really close friends and partners to get things going and deliver good results while having some fun. Perhaps one day a potential M&A will be the first step and hopefully far from today selling the business. We seriously have fun and enjoy being affiliates, this is the part of the journey that we like to take but if it becomes boring and tedious then we will surely change the course of the boat.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate marketing team/business?
There has to be an insane level of creativity to keep up with the competition, the environmental changes, and Google constantly updating their algorithm. Therefore, it is essential to have a team well aligned with all that is going on around us, and having some really talented people in key areas is also extremely important.
Within our group, we have skilled individuals in very specific areas that help us achieve great results. This is part of our strategy to make a solid growth in the region.
What sets you apart from other affiliates marketers?
There are some elements in Super Afiliados which make us stand out but surely one of the keys to our success is the great network of websites we own and great domain names we managed to purchase over the course of a decade.
We’re local, human, flexible, and we treat all clients with the same level of respect and importance, regardless whether they are a large and listed company or the new sports betting start-up.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
Over the past decade, we have developed some tailor-made crucial technologies to cater for our needs, from a simplified media server, URL shortener, and a robust platform where we control most of our operation from checking on the performance of our websites or our sub-affiliates, to verifying which domain names are about to expire and how relevant they are.
Is the grass greener on the other side - have you considered going down the operator route?
We have never considered this route as we believe we need to separate clearly from that. Since the day we started the operation this was very clear to me, and everyone at Super Afiliados agrees to that. Of course, it’s very tempting to draw so many players to your operation, but this could be conflicting towards the amazing relationship we have with our clients.
At the same time, I can understand those who are more in favour of that alternative but it’s not something that Super Afiliados, under my control, will ever do.
Which markets are you eyeing up as a priority in 2020, and why?
For the next couple of years, Super Afiliados will focus on Brazil and perhaps we may pick one or two countries that are in high demand, but only to help our clients and partners to make a better return in those regions.
Brazil has a lot to offer and we’re operating today with hundreds of assets, being websites, mobile apps, social media, and others. This will only increase with time and then a natural expansion to other territories will certainly come around, but surely not in the next 1-2 years.
How is the LatAm market shaping-up for affiliates?
Finally, we’re looking outside the window and seeing other affiliates arriving, some are rising from Brazilian soil and others are just coming from abroad with their strategies and concepts.
This is very healthy for the whole industry, and although the competition will, from now on, be fiercer, I’m confident that there is plenty of space for everyone, and the industry has a lot to evolve in the region.
Certain countries, such as some of the Spanish speaking ones, like Chile or Peru, are not yet exploring 10% of its full potential when it comes to affiliation. Others do not even touch the 5% mark and therefore, I can only see the size of their market and imagine how many years we will need to fully develop affiliation in LatAm to reach European levels.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
One of the key elements which I neglected, in respect to the trust and confidence that I had in business deals, was the need to enforce a contract with a clear set of rules which doesn’t leave any breach that can be used in the advantage of an operator that has other intentions.
I’ve seen a wave of deals being terminated in the region back in 2015 which affected most of the affiliates that were operating in those days, and some of them never recovered from the hit they took. It was certainly a mistake made by others too and surely, we have evolved the operation and we try to protect ourselves.
What are your predictions for the future of the sector?
eSports is something that everyone keeps talking about, but my prediction is that the more digital our lives are, the more we want to be in touch with humans. I’m suggesting that eSports, virtual sports, or any other kind of digital vertical, are not going to conquer their own space, but I guess the more we see developments in those areas, at the same time others are looking for a more humanized experience, even in gaming.
How do you manage relationships with multiple operators?
It’s certainly a challenge and we face that as an affiliate. The hardest part is to keep a good relationship with multiple operators who are competing, and sometimes it’s a fierce dispute for space, exposure, audience, etc. We have to be extremely flexible and make sure everyone gets the same level of respect regardless of their size.
I have been dealing with large corporate groups, some listed on the stock exchange and others privately owned but with enormous proportions, but at the same time I have great clients who are just starting their operation and I try not to distinguish who is who or how deep is one's pocket and the influence they have. We have to play the game as fair as possible and try to influence others to do the same.
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?
One of my favourite parts is to re-encounter friends and meet new people. Sometimes the simple idea of putting a face to a name or a username is extraordinary. At the same time there is a lot of value in content and new trends that you can only align and be up to date with if you attend relevant events such as SiGMA for example, that deliveres all of that to the Maltese based companies and international visitors like myself that come to join the show.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Manila or SiGMA Malta at some point?
I have attended SiGMA Malta on a couple of occasions, and I would love to see this new wave coming to LatAm, but Asia is truly the one I’d love to be able to go.
There is probably so much to learn from Asian countries that could be potentially utilized in LatAm due to the proximity in the cultural aspect of countries such as Japan for example.
Tell us a bit about yourself - after all, business is done with people, not just companies!
I’m just a family person who does everything in life thinking about my beloved ones. There is very little fun in life without family and friends with whom you can share the best moments;I devote my life to them.
What’s on your must-read list right now?
After years without reading any novel or anything Brazilian, very recently I came back to Paulo Coelho books. It’s really fun to come back and read a book so profound such as some of his titles after so many years, and now with a whole different perspective and mindset. The first time I read one of his books decades ago I was so excited that I sent him a letter (yes, we used to send letters back in the day) and he replied in handwriting.
Which quote do you live your life by?
Qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum.
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About SiGMA Europe - Malta
SiGMA Group has announced the postponement of its Europe summit, which was planned to be held in Malta on 17-19 November 2020. The show will now open its doors early next year in February, running from the 16-18th, making it the first event to headline the 2021 gaming calendar.